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WASHINGTON: As the Trump administration finalises its Afghan policy, Pak­istan held the third round of talks with the White House on its role in the regional peace and stability.

“Pakistan’s commitment to regional peace,” said Ambassador Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, when asked what was the focus of his talks with US National Security Adviser Gen H. R. McMaster on Thursday.

“Pakistan is ready to work with the United States for regional peace and stability as well as to pursue our shared interests in the economic domain,” he told Dawn.

This was the ambassador’s first cabinet-level interaction after presenting credentials to US President Donald Trump late April and the third between Gen McMaster and the Pakistani administration over the past two months.

A peaceful Afghanistan is vital to consolidate gains Pakistan made to achieve domestic stability, says ambassador

Gen McMaster visited Islamabad on April 17, a day after he urged Pakistan to pursue its interests in Afghanistan through peaceful means and not by using violent proxies.

This was also the first visit by a senior White House official to Pakistan since Jan 20, when President Donald Trump took the oath of his office. The US team flew to Islamabad from Kabul where Gen McMaster reiterated long-term US commitment to Afghanistan. In Islamabad, the US national security adviser met Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Later, the US Embassy in Islamabad issued a statement stating that in this meeting “Gen McMaster stressed the need to confront terrorism in all its forms”.

“The meeting on Thursday was part of our policy to maintain close contact with the US government and a follow up to the discussions held recently. I apprised the NSA that for Pakistan peace in Afghanistan is a high priority. A peaceful Afghanistan is vital to consolidate the enormous gains Pakistan has made to achieve domestic stability,” Mr Chaudhary said. “The broader regional stability also came under discussion.”

The ambassador said Pakistan believed that only a political process could restore peace to war-torn Afghanistan as “there’s no military solution to this conflict”.

He said that the NSA’s visit to Pakistan was useful for both sides to better understand each other’s perspective on issues of mutual interest.

Mr Chaudhary also briefed the NSA about prospects of economic engagement between the two countries and the investment opportunities emerging in Pakistan after the economic turnaround. This environment, he said, was ideal for foreign investments in energy and infrastructure sectors.

Gen McMaster “underscored the need for continued cooperation for a stable and prosperous region,” said a statement issued by the Pakistan Embassy.

The United States, which once deployed more than 100,000 troops in Afgha­nistan, still has around 8,400 troops there with another about 5,000 from Nato allies. It is also working on parallel efforts to negotiate a peace deal between Kabul and the Taliban. Pakistan feels that it can play an effective role in negotiating the deal.

But during his April 15-16 visit to the Afghan capital, Gen McMaster echoed Kabul’s complaint that Islamabad was still allowing the Taliban to use its territory for launching attacks in Afghanistan.

“As all of us have hoped for many, many years, we have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups less selectively than they have in the past and the best way to pursue their interest in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through diplomacy, not through the use of proxies that engage in violence,” Gen McMaster said in an interview with Afghanis­tan’s Tolo news agency.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2017